PDA

View Full Version : "Walk up to" vs "Walk over to" discussion


Shweta
03-14-2008, 06:48 AM
For example, you walk "over" to someone, not "up" to someone, unless you are walking up a hill or whatever.

Minor quibble. "Walk up to someone" is perfectly standard English, and there's nothing wrong with it. "Up" is just not being used literally in that case, just like it's not being used literally when you "mess up". This probably won't mean anything to most people but the place you go "up" to is a focal point of some sort. The "up to" implies that the place/person you're going to is important in the discourse. (This is consistent with phrases like - looking up to someone, someone being high-up, climbing up the corporate ladder, etc, but it's not quite the same phenomenon).

Ok ok, maybe it's grammatical; is it useful?

I say yes.

"Walk over" and "Walk up to" have different connotations. When you walk over to someone who is, say, painting, you could just want to look at what they're working on. If you walk up to them, you want to talk to them, or otherwise interact with them.

So.

1) I walked over to him and looked at his painting.

That's fine, but:

2) I walked over to him and smacked him in the face.

This seems distinctly weird to me, unless the relationship is such that smacking the person in the face is a casual action. Whereas:

3) I walked up to him and looked at his painting.

Very odd, why not just walk up to the painting?
But

4) I walked up to him and smacked him in the face.

Perhaps a bit bland for the action, but if your narrator dampens affect, it might well be the right phrasing.

Right, back to the regularly scheduled directionals. :D (Which I personally like unless they're redundant.)

Death Wizard
03-14-2008, 07:41 AM
Sorry, Shweta ... but I respectfully disagree on your up/over examples.

juneafternoon
03-14-2008, 07:52 AM
^ Really? I thought it made perfect sense.

Death Wizard
03-14-2008, 07:58 AM
I don't see how you can walk "up" to someone unless you are actually walking "up." You can't walk "down" to someone unless you're walking "down."

IceCreamEmpress
03-14-2008, 08:40 AM
I don't see how you can walk "up" to someone unless you are actually walking "up."

It's a very common idiom in US English, dating back well into the 18th century. How have you missed it until now?

It doesn't imply any change of altitude, just an approach to a close proximity with another person.


Edited to add: If it's good enough for William Tecumseh Sherman (http://books.google.com/books?id=HWf7lTRzPUAC&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=%22walked+up+to+him%22&source=web&ots=0Qn299bPCs&sig=OY1o0CtCbW45D2XeOraZl1jEMvo&hl=en), it's good enough for me.

juneafternoon
03-14-2008, 08:41 AM
There are two facets of phrasal verbs--idiomatic and literal. "Walk up" is idiomatic. It doesn't have to make literal sense.

Shweta
03-14-2008, 09:46 AM
Sorry, Shweta ... but I respectfully disagree on your up/over examples.

Might just be a dialectal thing, DW, something that isn't okay in your dialect but is in others. It happens.

But I think it's fair to say that the idiom is allowed in most if not all standard varieties of English, for a couple of reasons.

1) I've lived on three continents and spoken at least seven fairly standard dialects of English (including British and American varieties), and "walk up to" was fine in all of them. (That's where my intuition on this comes).
2) Nothing on the first page of google hits on "walk up to" is unambiguously about a height. In fact, the first hit on that that I get is more than halfway down the second page. So the usage data support my claim. Granted, the "google corpus" isn't a very reputable source, granted. But it's generally a fairly good sanity check on idiom usage.

Thus, I think it's unfair to tell people not to do it.

Birol
03-14-2008, 08:02 PM
I don't see how you can walk "up" to someone unless you are actually walking "up." You can't walk "down" to someone unless you're walking "down."

You can "talk down" to someone whether they are taller or shorter than you.

With respect, DW, either you live and have experienced a far different English language than I ever have, or you haven't been paying attention. In the US, "walking up" to someone is a very common phrase.

In my world, "walking up" to someone usually involves waiting (to be acknowledged) afterwards.

Death Wizard
03-14-2008, 08:55 PM
A phrase being commonly used doesn't make it correct. I worked at a major newspaper for 25 years, one that was extremely well-edited and won a zillion awards, and it was a pet-peeve of our stylebook to change "walk up" to "walk over." That's where I'm coming from. It's certainly not from a lack of "paying attention" or of living in some strange city called Over-ville where the word Up has been banned.

Death Wizard
03-14-2008, 09:02 PM
You can "talk down" to someone whether they are taller or shorter than you.

With respect, DW, either you live and have experienced a far different English language than I ever have, or you haven't been paying attention. In the US, "walking up" to someone is a very common phrase.

In my world, "walking up" to someone usually involves waiting (to be acknowledged) afterwards.

With all due respect, I disagree with your examples. Talking down to someone is figurative. But there's nothing figurative about walking up to someone, especially when the word over is the correct usage. I agree that walking up is used all the time, but I disagree that it's correctly used.

This certainly wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong, but there's nothing wrong with disagreeing.

Birol
03-14-2008, 09:52 PM
A phrase being commonly used doesn't make it correct. I worked at a major newspaper for 25 years, one that was extremely well-edited and won a zillion awards, and it was a pet-peeve of our stylebook to change "walk up" to "walk over." That's where I'm coming from. It's certainly not from a lack of "paying attention" or of living in some strange city called Over-ville where the word Up has been banned.

Ah, but you see, fiction is not the same as journalistic writing. There are nuances to each word choice. As Shweta pointed out, the use of 'up' has the slight connotation of approaching individuals who are above you in station or somehow intimidate the individual who approaches. It's these subtle shadings that we, as novelists, must employ to make each word count and add the flavor and subtext that our readers will absorb in the backs of their minds and add to their impressions of the scene as they read without even realizing that they have done so.

In the cases that we're discussing, the difference between "up" and "over" is similar to the difference between "crash" and "bump" when describing the impact between two vehicles. It's a matter of degree.

Death Wizard
03-14-2008, 10:13 PM
Ah, but you see, fiction is not the same as journalistic writing. There are nuances to each word choice. As Shweta pointed out, the use of 'up' has the slight connotation of approaching individuals who are above you in station or somehow intimidate the individual who approaches. It's these subtle shadings that we, as novelists, must employ to make each word count and add the flavor and subtext that our readers will absorb in the backs of their minds and add to their impressions of the scene as they read without even realizing that they have done so.

In the cases that we're discussing, the difference between "up" and "over" is similar to the difference between "crash" and "bump" when describing the impact between two vehicles. It's a matter of degree.

If you (the writer) are specifically and purposefully using "walk up" to create the connotation that you described above, then I agree with you. But for the most part, I think people use "walk up" because they're used to hearing it, and if that's your only reason, then I think you're wrong. What use is a directional word if the direction isn't accurate? You might as well say that you're walking down to the upstairs bathroom.

Though I was once a journalist, I'm now a novelist and minored in English -- so I'm all for "subtle shadings," etc.

juneafternoon
03-15-2008, 02:57 AM
If you (the writer) are specifically and purposefully using "walk up" to create the connotation that you described above, then I agree with you. But for the most part, I think people use "walk up" because they're used to hearing it, and if that's your only reason, then I think you're wrong. What use is a directional word if the direction isn't accurate? You might as well say that you're walking down to the upstairs bathroom.

Though I was once a journalist, I'm now a novelist and minored in English -- so I'm all for "subtle shadings," etc.
That's exactly what Schweta said :) She pointed out the different cases you'd use each walk up/over phrasal verb.

I love phrasal verbs, I really do. Portuguese doesn't have them, and they're the challenge of the English language: most make no sense. I love 'em dearly anyhow.

Pup
03-15-2008, 03:37 AM
With all due respect, I disagree with your examples. Talking down to someone is figurative. But there's nothing figurative about walking up to someone, especially when the word over is the correct usage. I agree that walking up is used all the time, but I disagree that it's correctly used.

I'd say that both "walking up to" and "walking over to" have become idioms, meaning to approach someone with the intent of getting their attention, with slightly different nuances.

In both cases, "up" or "over" doesn't logically need to be there at all, if all we're talking about is literal walking. While we can say we "walked over to the park," it sounds just as natural to say we "walked to the park."

So if someone is approaching an individual, there must be a reason it seems more natural to say we "walked over to John" (or up to John) rather than just "walked to John." I think the reason is that both "over" and "up" add meaning beyond the literal one. Swapping "over" for "up" doesn't change the fact that both implying an expectation of attention, unlike just plain "walking to the park."

Death Wizard
03-15-2008, 04:46 AM
That's exactly what Schweta said :) She pointed out the different cases you'd use each walk up/over phrasal verb.

I love phrasal verbs, I really do. Portuguese doesn't have them, and they're the challenge of the English language: most make no sense. I love 'em dearly anyhow.

Is that what she said? I misunderstood. Sorry.

Shweta
03-15-2008, 05:54 AM
As Shweta pointed out, the use of 'up' has the slight connotation of approaching individuals who are above you in station or somehow intimidate the individual who approaches.

...Or are important in the scene -- people you're going to directly approach. "Walk over" is more casual.

What use is a directional word if the direction isn't accurate?

So uh, DW? Where's the "over" in "walk over"? You use this even when you're not hovering over or flying over the person you're walking towards, yes?

Directional words are very useful, and using them correctly is important, I agree. But all these are figurative idiomatic uses. There's a lot of figurative language that most people never ever notice, and every directional word ends up gaining a whole network of non-literal meanings. I know it's true in English, and I believe it's true in in every language studied. This is why prepositions are the hardest part of English for a non-native speaker to learn. (Non-native patterns show even after all other traces of non-native speaking are gone).

The distinction I've been drawing above is not an arbitrary one. There's a pattern to it, with a basis in meanings and historical development. And while most of us aren't consciously aware of those patterns, we humans are pattern-matching monkey. Most competent speakers of the language follow the general usage pattern because it "feels" right.

I would say that your newspaper probably hated "walk up to" because in its figurative sense it's more confrontational. "walk over to" was probably seen as more neutral. And thus, for journalistic purposes, "right".

ETA: But then, I'm a linguist. I believe very strongly that the only good basis for judging what is correct in a language/dialect is the pattern of general usage. I don't think there's any way to make rules other than studying the data and trying to figure out its structure. So by definition your newspaper's rule "doesn't count" to me, and it sounds like what people generally do "doesn't count" to you, so we should maybe call it quits :)

Shweta
03-15-2008, 06:04 AM
Pulled these threads out because they were a derail to the OP.

Craig Gosse
03-15-2008, 06:21 AM
With all due respect, I disagree with your examples. Talking down to someone is figurative. But there's nothing figurative about walking up to someone, especially when the word over is the correct usage. I agree that walking up is used all the time, but I disagree that it's correctly used.

This certainly wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong, but there's nothing wrong with disagreeing.

Well, I'm glad to hear that, as I'm going to have to disagree with your disagreement...

I do believe that 'walk up' is valid, with certain specific overtones assigned to it, rather than simply bad English. I think the overtones *are* a matter of relative 'dominance' - to wit, to 'walk over' to somebody applies an equality, whereas 'walk up' to somebody figurative implies that they have a higher standing. (At the very least, until they deign to acknowledge you.)

'John walked over to Mark and shook his hand';
'John walked up to Mark and waited to shake his hand.'

vs.

'John walked up to Mark and shook his hand';
'John walked over to Mark and waited to shake his hand.'

The second set of example, to me, merely 'feels' wrong.


Part of my association with this comes from extension: as in substituting other forms of motion:

Compare to 'sneak up behind' somebody, or simply 'sneak up on'. Would you use 'sneak over behind him'? (You could, obviously - I'm asking if you would...)

Craig Gosse
03-15-2008, 06:24 AM
...seems more natural to say we "walked over to John" (or up to John) rather than just "walked to John."

Whereas, you can remove up/over by phrasing it 'precisely': "walked to where John was standing."

It simply doesn't have the same 'flavor'.

Shweta
03-15-2008, 06:33 AM
Heh.

"Approached John, walking" :D

Death Wizard
03-15-2008, 06:51 AM
So uh, DW? Where's the "over" in "walk over"? You use this even when you're not hovering over or flying over the person you're walking towards, yes?

:)

One of the definitions of "over" is "across."

Still, this has gone far beyond what I intended. You guys can use "up" a thousand times a day for the next thousand years and I'll support you all the way!

Keyan
03-15-2008, 06:54 AM
A phrase being commonly used doesn't make it correct. I worked at a major newspaper for 25 years, one that was extremely well-edited and won a zillion awards, and it was a pet-peeve of our stylebook to change "walk up" to "walk over."

Any professional publication has its own pet peeves. At one I worked for, they wouldn't pass "used" (as in, x is often used for y). It was always changed to "in use." (Gooseberries are often in use to make jam...)

Another banned "There was..."
Most of the time the rule made the writing tighter, but once in a while, it spawned a super-clunker.

The funniest was when one professional publication I worked for got taken over by another, and we had the battle of the stylebooks. Feelings ran so high that the acquirer quietly permitted parallel stylebooks for a year or two.

I'd have to guess that "walk up" is one of the shibboleths of that particular publication - I haven't heard of it's being erroneous usage ever before.

Death Wizard
03-15-2008, 07:03 AM
Any professional publication has its own pet peeves. At one I worked for, they wouldn't pass "used" (as in, x is often used for y). It was always changed to "in use." (Gooseberries are often in use to make jam...)

Another banned "There was..."
Most of the time the rule made the writing tighter, but once in a while, it spawned a super-clunker.

The funniest was when one professional publication I worked for got taken over by another, and we had the battle of the stylebooks. Feelings ran so high that the acquirer quietly permitted parallel stylebooks for a year or two.

I'd have to guess that "walk up" is one of the shibboleths of that particular publication - I haven't heard of it's being erroneous usage ever before.

Well, considering that not one single person has agreed with me, I'd have to say that you're probably right.

Shweta
03-15-2008, 07:03 AM
One of the definitions of "over" is "across."

And one of the definitions of "up to" is "to the point of"

5) You can work on that paper right up to the deadline, but not a moment after.

Neither is the core literal meaning of the preposition, found in neutral context.

Still, this has gone far beyond what I intended.

Uh well, I'm an academic. Tendency to argue things into the ground, etc :D

(Gooseberries are often in use to make jam...)
:roll:

Craig Gosse
03-15-2008, 07:16 AM
At one I worked for, they wouldn't pass "used" (as in, x is often used for y). It was always changed to "in use." .


"I'm an In Use Car salesman."...?

Matera the Mad
03-15-2008, 07:39 AM
I think it is partly a POV and position thing. Walking over to something implies -- to me -- a litle more distance than walking up to, and often as not it is at the same time a departure from the current place. I would walk up to the bar, walk over to the table in the corner.

Mary walked up to Jack and slapped his face as hard as she could. Leaving him half stunned, she walked over to the table, where her lamb lay in roasted splendor on its fine china bier.

Jill turned to Jack. "I told you, didn't I?" she said.

Birol
03-15-2008, 09:24 AM
This conversation has me thinking of up and down in terms of driving direction. On the flat, mid-western plains where I live, 'up' implies 'north' and 'down' implies 'south.' For example, from where I currently reside, I would drive up to Chicago, but down to St. Louis.

However, a friend of mine, also a born and bred plains dweller, lived in Colorado. There, 'up' and 'down' referred to everyone's altitude or elevation above sea level. You would drive 'down' to see someone at a lower altitude or 'up' to see someone at a higher altitude, regardless of whether they were north or south of you on the map.

Craig Gosse
03-15-2008, 09:39 AM
This conversation has me thinking of up and down in terms of driving direction. On the flat, mid-western plains where I live, 'up' implies 'north' and 'down' implies 'south.' For example, from where I currently reside, I would drive up to Chicago, but down to St. Louis.

However, a friend of mine, also a born and bred plains dweller, lived in Colorado. There, 'up' and 'down' referred to everyone's altitude or elevation above sea level. You would drive 'down' to see someone at a lower altitude or 'up' to see someone at a higher altitude, regardless of whether they were north or south of you on the map.

My Grandmother, who is a 'Newfie', uses 'by' for anything ON Newfoundland. "I went by John." - doesn't mean she went past him; she deliberately went over/up to him. What's really strange, is OFF the island, it somehow becomes 'across'. "I went across to John, across to the store for some milk, then across to the hospital to visit Darlene."

kzmiller
03-15-2008, 10:23 AM
I think something that hasn't been mentioned yet (or at least not applied via a 2x4 in order that I see it clearly) is that all these idiomatic constructions are extremely valuable because they give a writer choices. Writing doesn't just use the meaning of words. It uses the sounds they make. Even though most of us don't hear the written word, many of us are reading silently to ourselves, sort of like reliving a song in our minds. It's my understanding speed readers don't talk to themselves in their heads, so the sounds that words make isn't as useful for their reading experience. Still, the choice of using up or over (or by--how unusual, though I seem to recall some folks around here saying that they're going to stop by the store or go by Joe's house) or any other construction will be in part by implied meaning, in part by direction, and in part by the sound of it. Without choices and nuances in meaning it would be darned near impossible to write poetry or music, and it would make writing less interesting. So I try to embrace the possibilities while trying not to sound so odd in the name of lyrical prose that I become so purple that people vomit.

GerriB
03-15-2008, 11:37 AM
I'd walk up to a booth, but I'd walk over to the person on the other side of the room. I'd walk up to a ticket taker. I'd walk over to talk to my husband, but I'd walk up to him if I was mad at him.

I'm wondering if there's an expectation of some kind of transation implied in "walk up" vs. a casual interaction with "walk over".

*is too tired to follow the thought any further*

Atlantis
03-15-2008, 04:54 PM
I don't see how you can walk "up" to someone unless you are actually walking "up." You can't walk "down" to someone unless you're walking "down."


I disagree. Imagine for a moment that you are standing on a line drawn on a floor in a room. You are on one end of the line and someone else is standing on the other end. If you decide to move towards them you will be moving "up" the line towards the other end. That's basically what the phrase "walk up to someone" means. To close the distance between you and someone else...you are walking "up" to them. Words and phrases can have multiple meanings. There are no "set" rules.

Robert Toy
03-15-2008, 05:34 PM
"I'm an In Use Car salesman."...?
Re: Cars - they are never used, they are "pre-owned"...;)

Layla Nahar
03-15-2008, 09:08 PM
If 'walk up to' 'walk over to' etc occur in the dialogue, its all good.

For the narrative, in general (unless the narrative is really meant to be in a given characters voice) I would eliminate the preposition all together for a more accurate expression

tom approached miranda
tom walked across the room and stood next to miranda "now it's your turn"

you get the picture, right?

On this topic, can anyone tell me the difference between
'coming up the street' or 'coming down the street' ... if the street is flat?

Layla Nahar
03-15-2008, 09:10 PM
My Grandmother, who is a 'Newfie', uses 'by' for anything ON Newfoundland. "I went by John." - doesn't mean she went past him; she deliberately went over/up to him. What's really strange, is OFF the island, it somehow becomes 'across'. "I went across to John, across to the store for some milk, then across to the hospital to visit Darlene."

Oh my - I have a freind from Ottowa, he went duck hunting with a Newfie ...

KTC
03-15-2008, 09:11 PM
I honestly don't recall ever using either of these two phrases. I don't think I write like that? I try to be careful with character movement.

Craig Gosse
03-15-2008, 09:48 PM
Re: Cars - they are never used, they are "pre-owned"...;)

"Extensively Road-Tested".... (*Grin*)

astonwest
03-15-2008, 09:56 PM
Whichever phrase sounds best at the time...

Death Wizard
03-16-2008, 01:06 AM
I disagree. Imagine for a moment that you are standing on a line drawn on a floor in a room. You are on one end of the line and someone else is standing on the other end. If you decide to move towards them you will be moving "up" the line towards the other end. That's basically what the phrase "walk up to someone" means. To close the distance between you and someone else...you are walking "up" to them. Words and phrases can have multiple meanings. There are no "set" rules.

I seem to be in the minority in this. In fact, it's about 50 to 1. So I'm going to walk up to the corner, grab a chair, and stare at the walls in grammatical disgrace.

Birol
03-16-2008, 01:25 AM
See? This is why they hate me in the grammar forum. I'm of the firm belief that most of the questions they ask there don't have a single, correct answer.

Death Wizard
03-16-2008, 01:44 AM
See? This is why they hate me in the grammar forum. I'm of the firm belief that most of the questions they ask there don't have a single, correct answer.

Well, I can be as stubborn as the next person, but when that many people disagree with me, even I begin to change my viewpoint.

Shweta
03-16-2008, 04:47 AM
See? This is why they hate me in the grammar forum. I'm of the firm belief that most of the questions they ask there don't have a single, correct answer.
Me too :D

Well, I can be as stubborn as the next person, but when that many people disagree with me, even I begin to change my viewpoint.
Call it an "idiolect*" and you're home free :D


*That's idio- as in idiosyncratic, tyvm, it's not an insult. It's a linguistic term for a dialect that only one (or very few) people speak.

Death Wizard
03-16-2008, 04:49 AM
Me too :D


Call it an "idiolect*" and you're home free :D


*That's idio- as in idiosyncratic, tyvm, it's not an insult. It's a linguistic term for a dialect that only one (or very few) people speak.

I like that!

wayndom
03-16-2008, 05:45 AM
I don't see how you can walk "up" to someone unless you are actually walking "up." You can't walk "down" to someone unless you're walking "down."

Say WHAT??? The only way I can imagine this statement making sense is if people in South Carolina NEVER say "walk up to," so the phrase is completely unfamiliar to you.

Everything in Shweta's post made perfect sense. Walking up to someone is a standard phrase when you're about to confront that person, rather than simply stand by their side (for example). The confrontational aspect is often augmented by adding "right," as in, "He came right up to me and said..."

And as Shweta correctly pointed out, "up" has many colloquial uses that have nothing to do with altitude; e.g., screwing up, getting f**ked up, taking up a hobby, etc.

(Written before I saw the second page of this thread...)

Shweta
03-16-2008, 05:59 AM
Uh, I think we're over this argument now though :)